That still might be the case, but Ryu worked hard enough in the offseason to never buy that, flying to Okinawa, Japan, with a personal trainer to throw bullpens in weather warmer than his native Korea.
On Tuesday, he fired four scoreless innings on one hit against the Brewers in a 5-4 Dodgers loss. With Scott Kazmir still working on mechanics on back fields, Ryu appears to be competing with Brandon McCarthy and Alex Wood for the final two starting spots behind Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill. Then there’s Julio Urias, the 20-year-old who will probably have his innings limited via extended spring training.
“I’m definitely ready to pitch now,” said Ryu. “I’m pretty happy with this outing. I’m not sure about my velocity, but they weren’t making hard contact with my pitches, especially my breaking ball. There wasn’t much fatigue, my velocity was there, I felt great.”
Before the outing, manager Dave Roberts talked about Ryu needing to hold his velocity in later innings. Afterward, Roberts was impressed.
“The velocity was good from the eyes,” said Roberts. “Like he said, he was in midseason form. He was efficient, had everything working. He’s shown us a lot. When we look back a year, where he’s come from, he’s done nothing but allow us to be very optimistic. Every time he’s gotten better and we’re building him up to be a starter and break camp with us. That’s the plan on our end. He worked hard to put himself in a position where he’s at right now. We’re a better team if he’s in the starting rotation.”
Roberts stopped short of saying Ryu had won a job and Ryu wouldn’t say he’d done enough to deserve one. But Ryu dismissed concerns about his velocity, which Roberts said was in the high-80s this spring after being in the low 90s in 2013-14, when he won 14 games each year.
“I was never a guy who got batters out with velocity,” Ryu said. “If I get back to my 2013 velocity, I’ll be effective. I feel like I’m actually very close to 2013 form. I feel I’m on a similar pace. If I can get up to six innings, I feel I’ll be ready. I’m not sure if I proved I belong. But I’ve pitched three games and I think I’ve done relatively well so I think I’m on a good pace.”
Ryu has only three Cactus League starts and has allowed only one run in nine innings with eight strikeouts and one walk. McCarthy and Wood are one outing ahead of him. In six days, Ryu will pitch five innings, then comes the Freeway Series and what looms as a hard choice for management.
Dodgers trim roster
The Dodgers thinned out the clubhouse Tuesday, optioning outfielder Brett Eibner and reassigning to Minor League camp infielders Darnell Sweeney, Jose Miguel Fernandez and Willie Calhoun and outfielder Alex Verdugo.
Verdugo and Calhoun are ranked as the third- and fourth-best prospects in the organization by MLBPipeline.com.
Verdugo missed a significant part of camp while participating in the World Baseball Classic for Team Mexico. He was hitting .231 with one homer in nine games.
Calhoun had a big spring, hitting .360 with a .945 OPS in 17 games. Calhoun also spent considerable time this spring working on his defense and conditioning.
Eibner hit .306 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 36 at-bats. Sweeney hit .297, while Fernandez struggled at .167.
The Dodgers have 46 players remaining in big league camp (excluding Yimi Garcia, who is on the 60-day disabled list).
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.